Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 21, 2017 Guest: George Lakoff, Raheem Kassam, James Peterson
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": Meanwhile, THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, I`ve got to apologize to you. Those horrible sounds you heard a couple offices down from you earlier today, I`m sorry that was me singing Bonnie Tyler`s Total Eclipse of the Heart, and I apologize.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Good music can help bring in any national event.
TUR: It wasn`t good. It wasn`t good. It`s ear splitting and painful.
MELBER: Thank you, Katy.
MELBER: A total eclipse is very rare, especially in politics. President Trump began his first workweek without Steve Bannon today and got a taste of Bannon taking shots from outside the castle, signs the pressure will continue on his opponents like H.R. McMaster and Trump family members.
"Breitbart" may be a place to settle scores, but the White House trying to turn the page with a new foreign policy address tonight.
Now, Bannon is free to do anything he wants now, from cutting deals to getting paid, but it looks like what he wants most is to be getting paid attention.
The conventional take on Bannon fixates on ideological loyalty. Will he back any White House agenda or will he take some new role as an enforcer, trying to say what Trumpism really stands for?
But there`s actually another fault line here. We`re seeing it today. The commodity that matters more to Trump than any ideology is attention. People marveled today at the solar eclipse because of its raw beauty and because it reverses everything we know.
The sun is always the powerful center of our solar system, the moon merely orbiting it around the earth. And its light, the moon`s lights, drawn solely from the sun`s reflection. So, it`s a total reversal to see the moon eclipse the sun, like a pawn eclipsing the king even for a moment.
Steve Bannon is the moon to Donald Trump sun. People only know Bannon because of Trump`s reflected light. And any time he comes close to eclipsing Trump`s attention, gracing a magazine cover or taking credit for Trump`s rise, Donald Trump has grown angry with his advisor, not over ideology or policy, but over stealing his sunlight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Mr. Bannon. He`s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that.
And I like him. He`s a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He`s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It was this political eclipse that moved up Bannon`s ousting. We know this because there`s a new report in "The New York Times" that says the White House agreed on a plan to phase Bannon out later this summer and that changed only because of Bannon`s new comments to, guess who, the media.
And if Trump ousted Bannon for being too loud for being a mere satellite who didn`t know his place in the solar system, and after all it`s called a solar system because everything rotates around the sun, did Trump make this problem worse by freeing up Bannon to be even louder on the outside?
"Breitbart" now today alleged with hits against Trump aides and family. Bannon reportedly considering getting into political TV. And a former staffer playing the trump card here might end up being Trump`s worst nightmare.
Eclipses are not only rare. They can be dangerous, which is why you never look directly into one.
I`m joined now live by Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine"; Aisha Moodie-Mills, the President of Victory Fund; and Jared Yates Sexton, who wrote "The People are Going to Rise" about this Trump era.
Olivia, starting with you, can Bannon eclipse Trump more easily now that he`s out of the White House?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Well, I think we`re going find out. If he does decide to go into conservative television, which there has been some speculation about, perhaps that could happen.
We know Donald Trump certainly will be paying attention to it. But if you look at "Breitbart" today, the tone there and the reporting that - or if you could call it that, the writing that they have on there today is not totally different than it has been in the past.
They have been reporting on Ivanka and aggregating somewhat negative stories about Ivanka for months, if you go through the archive on her.
It just seems like they`re unchanged now, maybe they were holding back a bit before. And they feel free to say whatever it is that they want to say now.
I think it`s highly unlikely that Bannon will be more of a problem for Donald Trump outside of the White House than he was inside of it. I think there will be just less interest in general in Steve Bannon and I think Donald Trump will ultimately probably move on.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, PRESIDENT OF VICTORY FUND: Yes. So, few people are more of a problem for Donald Trump than Donald Trump is for Donald Trump.
My biggest concern about what Bannon is up to is - I`m concerned about the destruction that he has intended for America. People are sharing and celebrating the fact that he`s out of the White House.
I`m really concerned about what he is taking away from the White House. This man had high level security clearance and is a vapid bigot and has an economic "plan" that could be destructive.
And I`m curious what state secrets he`s taking with him that he`s attempting to unleash by eradicating all of the "moderate people" in the White House, who have been trying to stop his radical agenda.
MELBER: Well, and you mentioned state secrets, of course, there was a lot of back and forth about how much access he had to national security planning.
And then, there are these reports, Jared, here about "Vanity Fair." Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the Comey firing to Special Counsel Mueller, believes the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Stephen Miller were with the president. That`s more than a typical interview, if you do it with Mueller.
JARED YATES SEXTON, AUTHOR, "THE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO RISE LIKE THE WATERS UPON YOUR SHORE: A STORY OF AMERICAN RAGE": That`s correct. Stephen Bannon has been playing a really interesting long game here.
He sided with President Trump in his campaign because they had a mutual goal. They had a mutual ideology at the heart of this. And I think what we`re going to see now is now that Bannon is out on his own and independent, I think he`s going to playing his own game.
And where that intersects with President Trump, he`ll cooperate with him, but I think we are going to see a lot of moments where they are going to rift against each other and we`re going to see a lot of tension.
MELBER: And, Jared, I`m going to read from your book as you talk about sort of the power of narrative. And, as a political matter, Steve Bannon and a lot of what "Breitbart" was pushing years ago was considered not repeatable by a Republican nominee.
His supporters showed an alarming knack for taking the narratives, you write, that Trump had given them and then extending them to logical or illogical extremes. Was Clinton working with ISIS? Was Clinton an agent of the New World Order and in league with the cabal of Jewish bankers? Was Hillary Clinton a Satanist who subsisted on the blood of children?
It is 2017 and I am just reading from your factual accounting in a book, although sometimes I have to think twice, fact check. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump are Satanists.
But speak to this reporting you`ve done and how it relates to Bannon as someone who does push narratives into the mainstream? They don`t stay. What happens on "Breitbart" has not been staying on "Breitbart".
SEXTON: Sure. What we saw within the campaign was Bannon, when he came on to the Trump campaign, we saw him refine Donald Trump`s message, which a lot of the time was sort of a scattershot shotgun strategy.
And once Bannon came on, we saw the teleprompters come out, we saw the script come out and what we saw was that Bannon refined this message and made sure that he hit all of the dog whistles that Trump needed to hit, while also making comfortable, people who might`ve been uncomfortable with the racism at the heart of the campaign.
So, a lot of these narratives were simply hinted at and we had the possibility of them being completed by the supporters.
MELBER: Aisha, I see you shaking your head. Go ahead.
MOODIE-MILLS: Yes. So, the thing about this conversation that really has me anxious, and I appreciate Jared`s reporting on all of this that I`ve read, is that we are having a very civil conversation about - that is essentially normalizing a man who is trying to, and has been successful in, indoctrinating America and people globally around very fascist, racist, neo-conservative ideas.
This is dangerous stuff. This isn`t some random dude who`s good at communications. We`re talking about someone who is planning to raise millions of dollars to create another media entity, a TV entity to continue to push these lies, these hateful messages and to really give a platform to hate.
And I think that that`s what we all need to really be focusing on as opposed to trying to dissect and rationalize and really give some celebration to the strategy of this crazy lunatic.
NUZZI: I`m sorry. I just think - look, we`re not normalizing or trying to rationalize anything that Steve Bannon believes, but we don`t have anything confirmed about what his plans are right now outside of returning to "Breitbart".
We don`t have anything confirmed about how much he`s going to continue to be in contact with the Trump administration, though. Of course, history suggests that he will remain in Donald Trump`s ear, as many of his ex-aides have.
But I think it`s ridiculous to say that just having a civil conversation about this and dealing with the facts as we know them to be right now is in any way going to be detrimental to this country.
We need to talk about the facts and we need to dissect them and analyze them in a civil way.
MOODIE-MILLS: The fact of the matter is that the KKK just marched on Charlottesville. That is the fact of the matter. So, are we going to believe what we rationalize or are we going to believe what we see in front of our faces that we know that this man has perpetuated and given rise to over the last several years.
And I think that we need to be having a much more forceful conversation about the detriment that this human being is doing in our society and figuring out strategies to completely like block and tackle through that and to really negate his ability to spread hate.
MELBER: Well, I appreciate - I think we`re talking about a couple of layers, both values, what do people want to confront in our society, as well as facts, what do we know and what are we still trying to nail down on the factual front.
Olivia, Aisha, and Jared, appreciate each of you joining us tonight.
SEXTON: Thank you.
MOODIE-MILLS: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Now, coming up, speaking of fact checking, I`m going to have on the show tonight an editor from "Breitbart" to discuss what the segments - what we just discussed in this segment, what Steve Bannon wants to do and what "Breitbart" stands for. We`re going hear directly from them and fact check some of the reporting.
Now, first, President Trump heading to TV tonight. He wants to do a primetime speech about his Afghanistan strategy. And according to reports, he will be announcing the addition of thousands of US boots on the ground.
Will Fischer, an Iraq War veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, director of government relations at VoteVets.org, I want to thank you for your service and for giving us some of your expertise tonight. What do you think is most important for people to know about what we`re up against in Afghanistan now?
WILL FISCHER, IRAQ WAR VETERAN AND DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, VOTEVETS.ORG: Well, thank you very much for having me on, Ari. And I think what people are going to see tonight is first and foremost a reality TV show huckster.
We`re going to see somebody who views the presidency to see through the lens of Nielsen ratings and somebody whose numbers and poll numbers continue to go down, especially in the wake of equivocating on Nazis and white supremacists, and believes that if he merely changes the script or throws in a plot twist for a major character that he`d somehow can have more viewers or be more popular next week.
MELBER: Do you think the addition of troops could be constructive for the mission?
FISCHER: There is not a military solution to Afghanistan. The solution in Afghanistan is going to be coming through diplomatic efforts and that is not going to happen through just merely throwing more troops into Afghanistan with no plan.
You would think that after 16 years, even the most neophyte of leaders would be able to see that throwing more troops at Afghanistan with no plan is not a winning strategy.
MELBER: What do you think about the fact that his current plan, as reported, contradicts his past tweets about Afghanistan?
FISCHER: Well, when does Donald Trump not seem to contradict himself? I wouldn`t dare try to go spelunking into the mindset of Donald Trump and figure out how his brain works.
But, look, what are we going to see tonight? From what the plan sounds like, it`s going to be the status quo. It`s going to be a continuation of kicking the can down the road and of merely not losing, right, of merely not losing. And that`s what we`re going to hear tonight.
Now, of course, because it`s Donald Trump, because he is sort of this carnival barking personality, it`s going to be the status quo delivered in a likely bombastic way. And, of course, if his recent claims on Twitter are any of indication, it could even be advocating for war crimes.
MELBER: Will Fischer, appreciate your views. I`ll mention, we continue to have an open invitation for the White House as well to explain the strategy and we will all be listening tonight. Thank you.
FISCHER: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: On a programing note, we will be, of course, carrying the president`s address tonight. Rachel Maddow will be a part of our coverage along with other MSNBC experts, so you can catch it there.
Now coming up, there are more charities over the weekend pulling out of events at Mar-a-Lago, responding to Donald Trump`s rhetoric on race. We have someone who is advocating a boycott.
Also, new revelations about this Russian lobbyist who attended that meeting at Trump Tower, including new reports that he was tied to international hacking.
And later in the show, we have a look at perhaps the most common Trump defense he was just joking, but this could be a serious matter. We`re going to show you the tape and speak to a linguist about how it works.
I`m Ari Melber and you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: New pressure on Donald Trump over his Charlottesville comments. And this pressure is not political. It`s on Trump`s bank account.
Over the weekend, more charities bailing on events that were planned at Mar-a-Lago. Now, these events could run up to $275,000 per night. So, they can ultimately cost Donald Trump millions.
The moves are a hit to his brand because top charities like the Red Cross are sending a message that Trump`s properties are at this point too divisive to even visit.
The broader question is whether Trump, who ran on putative business success, is facing a business backlash. The campaign already sunk some Trump hotel bookings, but now you have activists pushing for a more formal boycott, arguing that a tool for economic justice from the civil rights era should be deployed now.
Joining me is Nate Lerner. He is Executive Director of The Democratic coalition and created the BoycottTrump app. Is this something that you see changing the bottom line of the Trump organization or is merely a PR headache for a president who follows PR.
Nate Lerner, ?Executive Director, The Democratic Coalition: That`s really the big question right now. Is this a turning point for us or is this just another one in a long line of scandals that we may be deal about and then we move on to the next one.
Our mission at The Democratic Coalition is to really try to bring him down at every turn and we do firmly believe that this is a huge opportunity we need to jump at and that`s why we definitely applaud the charities who stepped back and are no longer holding events there.
MELBER: I`ve been thinking about this. When you look at those charities, do you think they agree with you because you`ve been calling these boycotts for a while based on a wide set of, what you would call, policy and moral disagreements with the president or do they just want to get out of something that`s too hot?
LERNER: I think it`s a little bit of both. But at the same time, they, obviously, do not stand by what the white nationalists represent.
If you are the American Red Cross, you don`t really discriminate in who do you help out. And I think that`s their big message here, is they stand for equality, they stand for justice, they stand for the betterment of humanity and society.
That`s not really what the white nationalists are fighting for. And it was very responsible of them to step up. And as an apolitical organization to do that, that was very brave of them and we certainly applaud them for that.
MELBER: Right. You say political and there a lot of groups that claim they`re apolitical but aren`t. Oil companies say, well, we don`t have any political position.
MELBER: And, in fact, when you dig under the hood, look at them, they`re doing all kinds of lobbying. This seems a little different, which is why it`s interesting to hear what you`ve been up to.
Let me read to you what Laurel Baker said. She`s the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, so right in the middle line again, also business-oriented. "If you have a conscience, you`re really condoning bad behavior by continuing to be there at Mar-a-Lago. Look at your mission statement, are you living up to it?"
By that standard, who should be going to Mar-a-Lago?
LERNER: Anybody who opposes what the white nationalists and, let`s call them what they are, Nazis in many regards and what they stand for.
So, if you believe in equality, if you don`t believe in discriminating against people based on where they`re from, their ethnicity, what the color of their skin, then you should not be going to be Mar-a-Lago. You shouldn`t be associating with Trump in any way. And we believe the best way to fight back against that is by taking action.
Words are great, but at the end of the day, actions do speak much louder, and tangible action especially. So, if you hit them where it hurts, that`s all the better.
MELBER: Nate Lerner on the power of boycott. Thank you very much.
We want to turn to Russia. "The New York Times" reporting today that the Russian lobbyist at the center of the Trump Tower meeting has deeper ties to the Russian government and Kremlin-backed oligarchs than previously known, an association with a former Russian spy service and a history of working for close allies of President Putin.
With me is the reporter who broke this story, Ken Vogel from "The New York Times". Thanks for being here.
KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hey, Ari.
MELBER: Long story. Took a long time to read. I want to focus on what`s newest, which is, as I just mentioned, is this figure and also his links to international hacking campaigns that had never been previously exposed. Tell us what you found.
VOGEL: Yes. When this guy`s name was first revealed as having been present at this meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in June of last year and the height of the campaign season, it was kind of unclear as to his associations and whether there was any ideological consistency that ran through them.
He represented a bunch of businessmen, politicians, former politicians in the former Soviet Union, kind of seemed all over the map. So, we decided to dig deeper into this guy and his affiliations and we found that the one ideological consistency was that he was always either working in sort of the interest of the Kremlin or at least not in opposition to it.
That was his business. That`s what brought him into association with the deputy director of the FSB as well as with some of these pro-Kremlin oligarchs on whose behalf he was involved in campaigns that appeared to have hacking element to them.
MELBER: Right. And the hacking, give us context. Folks in the home going, OK, is this something that a lot of different international companies are affiliated with, international criminal espionage hacking?
VOGEL: In short, yes. This is a big part of - there is this term corporate espionage. We see it here in the US. We see it particularly when there are foreign actors who are involved against US companies, but it is a lot more common in abroad and particularly in some of these former Soviet states.
This guy really played a role in this sort of murky foreign influence lobbying game that in Washington does not get a lot of coverage, but underlies a lot of these international disputes where it`s helpful for folks to have people in Washington who were doing their bidding, who have access to people in the corridors of power. That`s this guy (INAUDIBLE).
MELBER: And so, where does this go from here. You mentioned that he is under special scrutiny or what`s the term of art as you put it?
VOGEL: Yes. He is someone who Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team have expressed an interest in because they are looking into this meeting as really one of the best examples of the Trump folks and the Trump`s associates - in this case, his son, his son-in-law and then campaign chairman - expressing an interest in meeting with Russians who are promising something that is deviously - that is improperly obtained and potentially damaging to Hillary Clinton.
This guy was in this meeting. So, he is a subject of interest and he has this rich back story that we think makes him even more interesting to Mueller and his team.
MELBER: Ken Vogel on "The New York Times" scoop. Thank you.
VOGEL: Thank you.
MELBER: Up next, I am going to speak to a top editor from "Breitbart" about Steve Bannon and what he is up to at the news site.
And then, when is a joke not a joke? We`re going to look at this common White House defense for when the president says something some call out of bounds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say affirmatively that whenever the president says something, we can trust it to be real?
SEAN SPICER, THEN WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When he`s not joking, of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is the big question when it comes to Trump`s statements. Is it really real, son? Let me know if it`s real if it`s really real.
But when Trump`s words get him in trouble, the White House often says he was just joking like when he bizarrely thanked Putin for taking countermeasures against US diplomats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: After universal condemnation, Trump said the line was facetious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you being sarcastic when you thank Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia.
TRUMP: In order to reduce our payroll, absolutely. I think you know that. But we have reduced payroll very substantially.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Same drill for Trump`s comments about the serious topic of police brutality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Like, when you guys put somebody in the car and you`re protecting their head, the way you put their hand over, like don`t hit their head and they`ve just killed somebody, don`t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump managed to offend police groups and police critics in that line. Both spoke out about the damaging suggestion that police should commit crimes of their own by roughing up a suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you guys are jumping and trying to make something out of nothing. He was simply making a comment, making a joke and it was nothing more than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Making a joke. And Trump`s most incriminating comments, some argue, about Russia, that public request for email assistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you accuse President Obama of obstructing when he was egging Russia on?
SPICER: He was joking at the time. We all know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was joking?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Russia exchange being the oddest joke defense because Spicer said that a year later after the evidence had emerged that Russia did hack emails and that Trump top aides at least met with people who claimed to be working on behalf of Russia.
The line in the movie Crimes and Misdemeanors was, if it breaks, it`s not funny. But what if it breaks the law? How funny would that be?
Where now linguist George Lakoff joins me. He wrote a celebrated book on political language. Don`t think of an elephant, know your values and frame the debate and is a Berkeley professor emeritus. Explained to us what you think this joke defense does.
GEORGE LAKOFF, LINGUIST AND PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UC BERKELEY: Well, it`s not a joke first. The main thing is it can be said to be one in defense. But mainly what it does is say something extreme that`s out of the ordinary, but actually send a message.
And that message, when you send it, is very real. It says, hey, rough up suspects. It says, yes, get information about Hillary. And it says, you know, yes, you know, do all sorts of things that you ordinarily would not do. It is a message and the fact that it is out of the ordinary and extreme suggests that it is not to be taken seriously. But when said by the President, it is taken seriously. And the message is there because it`s repeated over and over. When you have something like that in the press, the press repeats it, over and over, hundreds and hundreds of times, and that message does get out there.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: So if it gets the message out, but then is a back door away from it, is it a way of basically having your message cake, if you will, but avoiding responsibility ultimately because you say, well, I didn`t -I didn`t advocate that?
LAKOFF: That`s exactly right. And Trump has done this all through his career. He speaks of what he calls truthful hyperbole in business, where he says this is the greatest so-and-so, we`re going to have the best healthcare plan, we`re going to build this beautiful wall and Mexico is going to pay for it, et cetera. And he`ll say this extreme thing and will go out and you know, be understood. When you`re saying it to a customer, and you say, this is, you know, the greatest thing -- the greatest casino you`ll ever invest in, you know, that may not be the greatest, but it`s supposed to be a good investment, et cetera. And you know, a good salesman can be convincing about that. But it raises the question about whether that`s to be taken seriously.
MELBER: Right. That`s the question, George, take a listen to how often that question comes up with his staffing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: By the way, you`re going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. He better -- otherwise I`ll say, Tom, you`re fired.
Does everybody like Mickey? Otherwise, she can easily be replaced, right?
This was the one we were worried about. You weren`t there but you`re going to be --you`re going to be. Look, he wants to remain a Senator, doesn`t he?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The difference here being, you have live laughter so it doesn`t seem like something that`s later claimed to be a joke. Those seem to be recognized as perhaps nervous laughter as jokes in the moment. What`s going on there?
LAKOFF: What`s going on there is a veiled threat. A threat that he can run someone against a Congressman, or a Senator but it comes out as something like, well, I want to win, and you`re going to make me win or else, "you`re fired," as if this was on T.V., and just a game. But it`s not a game. This is politics. And the fact is, that this is a veiled threat. It says, you better do everything you can, or else. And when he threatens, that`s important because it says that the person he`s talking about is not doing his job. It says this person is inadequate and that`s important. And that`s, for example, the threats to fire Sessions and Mueller, when he says Mueller had better not go into business, there`s a red line there. That`s a threat to fire Mueller.
MELBER: Linguist George Lakoff, we always learn from you. Thanks for being here.
LAKOFF: My pleasure.
MELBER: Up next, we`re going to talk to the Editor in Chief of Breitbart London on Steve Bannon`s future.
MELBER: America`s political press often focuses on domestic news and even political drama. The daily topics tend to be somewhat different at Breitbart, the influential conservative site back in the action after Steve Bannon returned there over the weekend. On this Monday evening, the lead stories include criticism of Trump`s Afghanistan plan from a former general and from Trump supporter Eric Prince. There are reports on ISIS funding and Reverend Franklin Graham arguing Islam is not a religion of peace and all of Islam controls people through fear and intimidation. Its London section has about 11 different articles reporting on the Islam state or Islam related issues.
This emphasis like other parts of Breitbart reflects both something that exists, the global presence of militant Islamic terror that aims to murder Americans, Westerners, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as something that seems to exist in Steve Bannon`s mind. Like as long state of the least that Islam is not a religion of peace and that the U.S. war on ISIS is to some extent a religious clash as the New York Times reported. Bannon spoke at the 2014 talk at the Vatican and said the Judeo-Christian West is at war with Islam. There`s a major war growing, a war that`s already global. I`m now joined by Editor of Chief of Breitbart London and the Author of No Go Zones, Raheem Kassam. Thanks for joining me.
RAHEEM KASSAM, BREITBART LONDON EDITOR IN CHIEF: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Your work, and much of what`s on Breitbart, emphasizes this threat of radical Islamic terrorism. How do you think this Trump administration is doing to combat it?
KASSAM: Well, I think they made a good start by going for the travel ban. You know, I know there was -- there was a little bit of obstructionism for it. And I think it was -- look, I think it`s fair to say that it was misrepresented in a lot of quarters as a Muslim ban. I understand what Trump said during the campaign but that`s not what this ban turned into. I think that`s a good start. I think the Race Act, the Immigration Act is a very good way to go as well.
And like you say, you`re very kind to mention my book. I walked through the problems that we`re facing. You know, I grew up in a Muslim family in the United Kingdom. I worked through the problems not just that the West is facing, but actually, Muslims are facing in the west for other Muslims trying to radicalize them, trying to draw them into a literalist and fundamentalist sort of interpretation of the Koran. And our reporting as you just said, yes, absolutely, those reflect that. We focus on that quite heavily because we have a Prime Minister in the United Kingdom who`s on the record of saying Sharia can be good for Britain. Well, I don`t believe that Sharia can be good for Britain and I`m a former Muslim who will stand up and say that.
MELBER: Raheem, when you mentioned the coverage of the ban, surely you understand why people, many people believe it is targeting at least Muslim majority nations and Muslims because that`s what the President said as a candidate he planned to do.
KASSAM: Yes, and that`s exactly what I just said. And I think that`s a fair criticism. But what I don`t think is a fair criticism is to say that that`s what this ended up as. There are many Muslim countries, majority Muslim countries that weren`t included in this ban, on this travel ban list and when you look at the nations that were actually listed, these was the same -- these were the same nations that the Obama administration was placing extra scrutiny upon for migrants and even visitors. So I think -- I think it got a little bit out of proportion there.
MELBER: Well, only -- on that point, only for visitors. In other words, the visa issue with those countries, as you probably know, was about people who passed through them and that sent up a flag. The Obama administration didn`t have a determination that migrants originated from those countries posed a threat.
KASSAM: Yes, but this administration has obviously looked into that and said there was a list, and we`re going to take that list and we`re going to expand on this because there`s a national security aspect here. And I`m sympathetic to that. I think that look, he went through the campaign saying he`s going to make America safe again. He can`t get into the White House and not do anything to make America safer. We have a real problem with radical Islam in Europe. We have 32, maybe 33 I think now if you include this weekend`s attacks -- terrorist attacks in Europe, this year alone. That is -- that is a huge number. That is epidemic levels. Only two of those attacks were not linked to radical Islam in some way, shape or form. And I think it`s fair for the President to try to stop that happening here.
MELBER: So let`s dig into that, and you mentioned your background which is interesting and brings expertise to it. The thing about Breitbart as you know is that some of these articles and the way things are presented seems to suggest the idea that any association with Islam is problematic. Here`s a current one on H.R. McMaster, who`s been known of course to tangle with Steve Bannon, and you have H.R. McMaster endorsed book that advocates Quran kissing apology ceremonies.
A relevant -- you know, referencing this book, Militant Islamist Ideology which as I think you probably know off as Breitbart writes up. It`s by Youssef H. Aboul-Enein who sounds like the kind of person you`d want on your side in all this. He`s a senior adviser at the U.S. Counterterror Force there at the DIA. He`s a reserve officer and a Military Professor, and a Chair of Islamic Studies at National Defense University. Why present to readers the idea or the suggestion that it would be negative for H.R. McMaster to be working with, or complementing the research of this official?
KASSAM: Yes, it`s a great question. I`ll explain it in full. So there are lots of people who understand this issue very well but they come at the issue from different sides. You know, I`m one of the people who believe Islam is not a religion of peace. I don`t believe that Muslims are there for aggressive and violent and prone to terrorism and radicalism. In fact, what I believe is that if we protect them from it, that`s the best thing we can do, and best only by tackling the radicals. So for instance, in the United Kingdom, there is a Liberal Commentator called Maajid Nawaz. He`s a practicing Muslim, he is a reformist. But he gets labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hatemonger simply because he opposes Sharia. And so, you know, I wouldn`t want Maajid Nawaz necessarily advising H.R. McMaster, because I think he has slightly different solutions to --
MELBER: Certainly, what about -- and again, I don`t want our viewers to get lost on the -- on the people but then, what about the individual that is cited in the Breitbart article, what about Aboul-Enein?
KASSAM: Unfortunately, I don`t know Mr. Aboul-Enein so -- and I`m not familiar with his work. So I can`t comment on that. you know, I`m the Editor of Breitbart London, and that story didn`t run in Breitbart London so I can`t comment on that specific article but I can understand why if you have a different solution to tackling radical Islam, maybe he Mr. Aboul- Enein has a great idea of how to attack radical Islam, but he simply doesn`t have the same idea we have to do it, and that`s fine. Why can`t we criticize that sort of thing? You guys do that all the time.
MELBER: Oh no, certainly, I think criticism and civic discourse is a whole part of this.
MELBER: I guess the question I`m getting at, and I take your point that a Web site has much ingredients to it, is that the way it`s done there seems to suggest that the main problem with him is the desire to understand Islam or that he doesn`t share what we quoted, the Bannon view that somehow the entire religion of billion-plus people is somehow --
KASSAM: No, hold on-hold on.
MELBER: Go ahead.
KASSAM: It`s not a religion -- it`s not a religion of a billion-plus people. There are a billion-plus Muslims but you can`t say they all subscribe to Sharia. You can`t --
MELBER: No, certainly, nor did I. Go ahead.
KASSAM: No, so what I`m saying is, you can`t put them all in one box. Everyone says this religion of a billion-plus people. Well, there`s Shias, there`s Sunnis, there`s Ismailis, there`s Ahmadis, you know, they all believe different things. I think it`s so unfair when we lump everybody in together and say this is who we`re at war with. We`re not absolute not at war with all these people. Let`s make it -- let`s be very clear about this. We`re at war with Sharia which is a fascist ideology. This is the ideology that says you should cut off a person`s hand and cut off their foot if they get in the way of the spread of Islam. You know, read the book. I know my Quran. You know, read the book, it`s clear about these things. And we`re trying to save Muslims from getting radicalized. We don`t -- you know, we don`t want to lump them all in together.
MELBER: Right. So, I take your point there and certainly the use and abuse of Sharia and militant Islam --
KASSAM: Yes, it`s a real problem.
MELBER: -- as way of restoring -- try to restore order and assert state- sponsored violence or in the situation of ISIS, a want to be state. When you talk about lumping, this again is an issue we want to get your response with regard to Breitbart. The categorization on Breitbart often uses these immigrant or religious related tags to do what you might call lumping. You had a whole category here of articles that`s migrant sex attacks. There`s a discontinued tag of black crime in the United States. There`s another tag of illegal immigrant crime. Isn`t the problem the crimes? Why the fixation on only looking at certain crimes by certain individuals?
KASSAM: Well, I don`t -- again, I`m the editor of London so I can`t comment on like the black crime stuff. It`s just not within my read. And I`m not -- you know, I`m not a company spokesman. I`m here to talk about - - I was booked to talk about Steve Bannon and the White House but we got into -- we got into --
MELBER: But this is related but yes, go ahead.
KASSAM: Sure -- no look, I`m just -- I`m just explaining for the viewers. So I`ll talk about the migrant sex attacks one because it`s something that I was directly responsible for. We had in 2015 this opening of the borders, this comes one, come all claim from Angela Merkel that actually forced a real crisis in Europe. It forced a crisis not just on Europe`s borders, inside European nations, it`s forcing a crisis of integration that these people aren`t getting jobs, by the way. The -- if you look at what happened in Cologne, just a couple of years ago now, where over 1,000 people of migrant background raped, groped and harassed young women at the central station in Cologne, that is a legitimate thing to worry about. You know, across the filter, here`s what Breitbart is supposed to do.
Across the filter, you have different news organizations that represent different viewpoints. This channel is no different. And we want to represent the things that are not covered by what we deem the mainstream media, the establishment media. And this migrant sex attack thing is a real problem. The statistics are very clear. And I laid them out in my book as well. If anybody`s not sure of the data, it`s all there. I`m not trying to scare people. I don`t need to try and scare people. What`s going on is horrific and it`s not just to non-Muslims that they`re attacking, by the way. They`re attacking the (INAUDIBLE) women.
MELBER: Certainly not. Let me ask you this --
KASSAM: This is not what liberalism is about. We should be -- we should be critical of that.
MELBER: In the U.S. context, and you mentioned Steve Bannon and you mentioned the coverage and the way President Trump also speaks about it. There seems to be, as I mentioned, this effort on only looking at certain crimes based on the perpetrator. As you probably know the Trump administration is the first in many, many decades to try to have tracking of only the perpetrator, in this case, they`ve looked at immigrants, you know, from mostly Mexico and other South American countries. And this is a sea change. So I ask you and we are running out of time, I want to warn you, but you`ll get the final word, why move to this approach?
I`ll put up on the screen, for example, the bare fact that the U.S. census found immigrants in United States have lower incarceration rates than other individuals, the status showing there less likely to commit crimes than the average American populous historically. And so, if they aren`t as great a threat with regards to incarceration, and we`ve always look at crimes, not just who did them, does it concern you that Breitbart, and now this administration seems to be trying to push the idea of caring more about crimes based on who did them than the overall data?
KASSAM: It doesn`t concern me. But yes, I agree that there is a balance to be struck there. You know, nobody thinks of Australia as a fascist country, but it has an immigration policy that necessarily discriminates. It discriminates if you`ve got a criminal record, in all different sorts of things, so does Canada. And nobody thinks of that as a country that is a discriminatory country but it does actually discriminate as to who can come into the country based on their background, based on who they are, based on you know, health things even, right? And that is what`s going on here.
What you`re -- what you`re trying to do is you`re trying to drill into the pros and the cons of who you`re actually bringing into your country. And if they come from a place whereby they are more prone to terrorism, then, there should be more scrutiny on those people. If they come from a place where you know, they`ve committed a crime in their country, for example, there should be more scrutiny on those people. And I`m of the belief, and you look across Europe for instance as a result of this, the large-scale immigration that`s happening in Europe at the moment is leading to higher crime rates amongst migrants because they`re unable to get jobs.
MELBER: And that-and that is a fair point. I don`t know that you`re being responsive to the question, which is, is it good for the U.S. government under Trump or Breitbart as an information source under Bannon to lump and track selectively? I`m out of time, I`ll give you a final thought if you want to be responsive.
KASSAM: Well, yes, I think there`s a balance to be struck, though. You know, I think we shouldn`t ignore it but we shouldn`t only focus on it. So you know, and that`s what`s happening.
MELBER: Raheem Kassam, I appreciate you spending some time with us and sharing your views.
KASSAM: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you. I want to turn now to James Peterson a Professor at Lehigh University who studies many of these issues. Your reaction to Raheem on where Breitbart is headed with these issues obviously under discussion in the government.
JAMES PETERSON, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Right. So I think Raheem`s comments were interesting. Your exchange was very, very interesting, Ari. But I just want to give folks, in terms of Breitbart America just a little bit of history because when we think about this (INAUDIBLE) now with Bannon returning to Breitbart and what happened with the relationship going forward with the White House, we have to understand the historical synergy of Breitbart and Trumpism. So, Ari, you`re aware of this because we covered this when things happened but you might remember the Acorn story from several years back when they released this edited video by Acorn trying to show they were engaged in some kind of prostitution effort. Once we got the full sort of video, we realize that that edit that they initially posted was kind of like fake news.
Same kind of story around Shirley Sherrod who was in the Agricultural Department in the U.S. government, they release the video for -- and their video seem like she was saying racist things but when the unedited video was released, it seems that that was untrue so much so they tried to rehire Shirley Sherrod after they fire her in the wake of that Breitbart news. So I think there`s a sort of right-wing entertainment complex that Breitbart news taps into. And so, their news stories and even their headlines, some of which you`ve read here are often misleading and often played to the base of what we think of as being Trump`s supporters. But Bannon`s move now might be a little bit different, evidenced by the headlines we see on Breitbart were obviously trying push back against certain enemies that he`s established within the Trump administration.
MELBER: James Peterson from Lehigh University on a busy news day. We were juggling a lot. I appreciate you joining us. I`d love to have you back on THE BEAT.
PETERSON: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: All right. We will be right back.
MELBER: A once in a 99-year event. Everyone is talking about it and we`ve got you covered with the best moments from the eclipse mania next. Also, you could check us out on Facebook and Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI, you can also use regular e-mail. We do read them. I`ve told you, and it`s true, ARI@MSNBC.COM. We`ll be right back.
MELBER: Here`s one piece of news we all know about by now, this amazing eclipse that went across the Continental United States today. We watched it here. A few of us went out into the Rockefeller Center Plaza. We had the glasses of course and took it all in. We had a partial eclipse. And we also had something unusual, these days, if you think about it. A national shared experience. There were passers on planes, taken a video of sight right there from your window seat. NASA released this beautiful image. I mean, this is -- this is a natural symmetry here. The seven frames that shows the international space station as it crossed the face of the sun and of course, yes, it was a big moment at the White House. This image going viral across social media, another clip has gone viral too, the sign-off by ABC Anchor Frank Reynolds after the last eclipse in `79.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK REYNOLDS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from North America. That`s 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world of peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Amen. I don`t know if we`re a world of peace but we can keep trying. The next eclipse for North America is seven years away in 2024. That does it for me, I will see you here tomorrow night I hope at 6:00 Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bannon unleashed. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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